Checks on members of The Children's Panel.

John Golding made this Freedom of Information request to Children's Hearings Scotland

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Children’s Hearings Scotland,

Please provide information as follows:

1) What checks are made on people who sit as members of The Children's Panel to ensure they are fit to undertake these duties?

2) In the event that information is received which casts doubt on the fitness of a panel member, what steps are taken to investigate the situation?

3) In the event that a member of The Children's Panel has colluded in child abuse within her own family what steps would be taken to satisfy this person being fit to hear cases involving child abuse? Would this person be excluded from The Children's Panel on these grounds?

4) When someone contacts the relevant party to inform of serious doubts about a Panel member's fitness (and can corroborate these by official documents) would this be investigated? Is it the custom to just dismiss such information? Is there an awareness of a Duty of Care to the children whose cases are considered?

Yours faithfully,

John Golding

Children's Hearings Scotland

Dear Mr Golding,

 

Thank you for your email, which was received on 13 October 2018, in which
you have requested information on ‘Checks on members of the Children’s
Panel.’  CHS has considered this as a request for information under the
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (“FOISA”).  An application for
information held by public authorities under section 1 of FOISA requires
that a public authority release all information held, subject to any
applicable exemptions.  Public authorities have twenty working days
following the date of receipt of the request to respond to an applicant. 
The deadline for response is, therefore, 09 November 2018.

 

Response

 

Please see our answers below.

 

1) What checks are made on people who sit as members of The Children's
Panel to ensure they are fit to undertake these duties?

During the recruitment phase, there are multiple measures used to assess
the suitability of potential Panel Members: 

- The application form includes questions that are intended to gain better
insight into the motivations of applicants, their values, and past
performance. 

- Applicants are asked if they are disqualified from working with
children.

- Applicants are asked at this stage to provide references to speak to the
character of the applicant.

-  Applicants who are shortlisted are then required to attend a one-to-one
and a group interview, where they are assessed on their approach to real
life scenarios which they are likely to encounter.  This can include
responding to conflict, for example.  

- CHS undertake a PVG Scheme Record check for all potential Panel Members
before they are approved to attend Pre-Service Training. 

- If PVG Membership is approved by Disclosure Scotland yet a conviction is
identified, CHS will undertake a paper based risk assessment to determine
fitness to join the panel. For example, a vehicle speeding conviction may
be identified but in itself would not prevent Children’s Panel Membership.

- Prior to beginning their service, prospective Panel Members are required
to undertake specialist training, and during this process, the trainers
undertake ongoing evaluation of the prospective Panel Members to assess
their suitability and their adherence to the values of the Children’s
Hearing System.  Once they have successfully completed their mandatory
training, which includes an assessed Professional Development Award, Panel
Members attend training events throughout the year.

- Once they have been formally appointed and have started sitting on
Hearings, all panel member practice is observed by Panel Practice Advisors
at least twice a year.  If issues are identified, the Panel Member is
provided with additional training and support, and further observation. 

- Every three years, Panel Members must either apply for reappointment, or
end their tenure on the Children’s Panel.  During the reappointment
process, their observation records are reviewed, and they are interviewed
to discuss their experience and ensure their continued suitability to the
role and adherence to the values of the system.

 

2) In the event that information is received which casts doubt on the
fitness of a panel member, what steps are taken to investigate the
situation?

            CHS may undertake a range of investigative and remedial
actions, depending on the nature of the allegation being made.  The CHS
Complaints Policy and associated process, which is in line with SPSO
guidance, will be followed if the allegation relates to an individual’s
conduct in a hearing. If the allegations brought to our attention relate
to activity outwith the hearings’ process or are either criminal or
historical, these are dealt with outwith the complaints process.  

            CHS does not have statutory powers to investigate allegations
of criminal activity.  We would therefore encourage any such allegations
to be referred to the police, and any concerns regarding child welfare to
local child protection teams/social work departments as well.  Social Work
departments have a responsibility to contact the police immediately if
there are significant concerns for child safety. CHS will encourage anyone
with such an allegation to contact these agencies directly. 

 

3) In the event that a member of The Children's Panel has colluded in
child abuse within her own family what steps would be taken to satisfy
this person being fit to hear cases involving child abuse? Would this
person be excluded from The Children's Panel on these grounds?

            In order to provide the most accurate answer, your question
has been interpreted in two different ways: first, that a panel member has
a criminal conviction, and second, that a panel member has been accused of
criminal behaviour but there is no criminal conviction.  

            In response to the question assuming that there is a criminal
conviction, Children’s Hearings Scotland does not have statutory powers to
investigate allegations of criminal activity.  As detailed in response to
Question, however, there are a number of safeguards in place to identify
candidates who are not suitable for the Children’s Panel.

            In response to the second interpretation of this question, ,
that an allegation is received but there is no criminal conviction, where
allegations of a serious nature, such as child abuse, are made to CHS, as
stated in response to Question 2, CHS will advise the individual raising
the allegation to contact the Police and/or Social Work department.
Disclosure Scotland will notify CHS of any investigation by the police,
giving rise to consideration for listing or removal of membership of the
PVG Scheme.  This may result in the individual being removed from the
Children’s Panel.  A Leave of Absence will be instigated until CHS are
notified of final outcome investigations. If the police are satisfied that
there was no case to answer, then CHS will take no further action.  If the
allegations are upheld, then the individual will be removed from the
Children’s Panel.

 

4) When someone contacts the relevant party to inform of serious doubts
about a Panel member's fitness (and can corroborate these by official
documents) would this be investigated? Is it the custom to just dismiss
such information? Is there an awareness of a Duty of Care to the children
whose cases are considered?

            In response to the first question, all allegations are taken
seriously, however Children’s Hearings Scotland does not have statutory
powers to investigate allegations of criminal activity.  With regards to
official documentation, certain documents are classified as confidential,
such as Social Work reports.  These are intended only for the persons
involved in the case.  CHS does not have the statutory powers to request
access to these documents.

            If such an allegation was reported to relevant agencies and
convictions secured, CHS would be informed, and as previously stated in
response to Question 3, if listed the Panel Member would be removed from
the Hearings System.  In line with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
(SPSO) guidance, CHS is not required to publish details of subsequent
actions taken following an investigation. In response to the third
question, yes, CHS is aware of the Duty of Care to children, and it is
central to our ethos and values underpinned by our duties as a corporate
parent.

 

Your right to request a review

 

You have a right under FOISA to request a review of this decision. If you
wish to exercise this right, you must do so within forty working days
following the date of receipt of this decision. 

 

Your request for a review must be in writing and you must specify your
name and address for correspondence.  You must also identify the decision
that you wish to be reviewed.  Should you wish to request a review, please
address your request to:

 

Depute Chief Executive

Ladywell House

Ladywell Road

Edinburgh

EH12 7TB

[Children’s Hearings Scotland request email]

 

Your review will be undertaken by an individual not involved in the
original decision making process.

 

Your right of appeal

 

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a review, you have a right
under the FOISA to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner. If you
wish to do so, you must appeal to the Commissioner within six months
following the date of receipt of the review notice.

 

An appeal can be requested on the Scottish Information Commissioner’s
website at: www.itspublicknowledge.info/Appeal

 

Or alternatively, you can make your appeal request in writing to:

 

The Scottish Information Commissioner

Kinburn Castle

Doubledykes Road

St Andrews

Fife

KY16 9DS

Email: [email address]

Tel: 01334 464610

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Katie

 

 

Katie Crone Barber│  Information Governance Assistant

Children’s Hearings Scotland│  Tel: (0131-24)-43495 

[1]www.chscotland.gov.uk

 

 

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Dear Children’s Hearings Scotland,

Thank you for your response to my FOI request.

The information you have supplied is at odds with a matter which has been referred to North Ayrshire Children's Panel recently. This concerned a member of the Children's Panel in North Ayrshire who is known to have colluded in sexual abuse of her youngest daughter. This was reported to you as the circumstances indicate she is unfit to hear cases involving child abuse. There is evidence available to corroborate this by way of a Social Services report which states that her youngest daughter was subjected to sexual activity/abuse by her partner as a young child. There was medical evidence which verified this and the person concerned continued to live with her partner despite knowing of his paedophilia. This evidence was offered to be available to this North Ayrshire Panel but this was refused. The serious concerns were dismissed out of hand.

The situation you describe is not operated in reality.

Yours faithfully,

John Golding